In two days, Americans will celebrate a very different Thanksgiving. In some houses, there will be empty chairs and smaller portions. A few might mask up or sit outside, while in other homes the only sound will be the clink of a single set of silverware against an otherwise empty table.
Many of us have experienced losses in 2020 from loved ones and jobs to relationships, routines, and even our health.
If you’ve lost someone or something in 2020, I wish you comfort and peace.
I also hope you have something to be thankful for and that whatever that is, you enjoy it with abandon.
When the pandemic began, I met with someone we’ll call Betty. I actually met with lots of Betty’s so this story doesn’t belong to just one person.
When I asked Betty how she was doing, she looked at me sheepishly and said, “My life’s good right now. I can spend time with my kids and try new things. But I feel so guilty I can’t enjoy it.”
I could relate.
As someone who’s worked at home for years, the ‘rona barely dented my routine. With less to do, I found myself resting more and cooking new dishes while unemployment and COVID cases skyrocketed.
Who was I to be happy at a time of such suffering?
Delaying joy and minimizing our blessings are common practices even in the best of times.
Some of us were raised to watch for the other shoe that’s bound to drop.
We freeze in the middle of good times waiting for them to end, or we hasten their demise by “dress rehearsing for tragedy,” what Brené Brown calls foreboding joy.
With foreboding joy, we keep ourselves in a slightly sad, fearful, or grief-stricken state, believing this will make our eventual falls a little less painful.
That’s not what happens.
Minimizing joyful times and failing to be grateful squanders the padding we can accumulate around the hard times we all eventually face. When our starting point is mildly miserable, we plunge even lower and hurt even more because we have nothing to cushion our fall.
Stressors like COVID, economic uncertainties, and political disinformation continually nick at the little padding we have left. They can also amplify old messages around foreboding joy.
But, mutually assured suffering doesn’t solve anything.
Ask yourself the following question.
If you were drowning, would you rather have someone hop in the water and drown next to you or pull you onto their raft?
Personally, I’d like access to the raft.
Practicing gratitude and living abundantly give you the cushion to not just pad your own falls, but to also assist others during their challenging times. Even when you’re not actively helping others, enjoying life gives those around you permission to do the same.
Living abundantly also makes you more open and creative, something we need now more than ever.
Even though I related to Betty’s dilemma, I didn’t cave to mutually assured suffering. I enjoyed every happy moment I experienced. When summer brought an unexpected death and a health crisis to my door, the padding I’d accumulated made it easier to weather those experiences.
So how can you lean into your abundance instead of succumbing to guilt?
- Write down or say out loud what you’re grateful for—not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Some people say grace before every meal. I say one gratitude.
- Pay attention to your thoughts. If you notice you’re “dress rehearsing for tragedy,” pause. then pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on a physical sensation like the feel of the air against your skin. Once you’re completely present, name one thing that’s going well.
- If you have extra—be that time, talent, or treasure—give some away. This could include donating to a cause, running errands for a neighbor, or sharing a skill with a family member or friend.
This year, I have a lot to be grateful for.
My health returned. I have an amazing job and an incredible writing community. During the hardest of times, my family has been supported.
In the month of December, I am celebrating my blessings by doing weekly #GiveawayForGood challenges.
Each week, I’ll share a new challenge.
Respond to the challenge and you’ll receive one (or more) tickets for my weekly drawings which will include prizes like $50 gift cards to New Dominion Bookshop, a box of author-signed books released in 2020 ($100 value), and a grand prize drawing of a one-hour coaching session with me that includes a 10-page manuscript review ($250 value).
My goal is to see how much good we can do for our literary community and those who are currently struggling.
Participating in my #GiveawayForGood challenges will help you live more abundantly.
Some of you might end up with a few extra end-of-year gifts, courtesy of me.
Look for challenge number one in next week’s newsletter.
In the meantime be welll, and wherever you are, may you always find ways to be thankful.